Aug 28, 2014

Alaffia Skincare Review

I'm super excited for today's post! I was contacted by Alaffia to review a few of their skincare products and I'd like to share some of my favorite products from their line. You might have seen these products in your local Whole Foods or organic department. I have been trying to shop more in the natural products aisle over the last few months, so I was thrilled to receive these products.

Alaffia is a certified fair-trade, sustainable beauty company based in Washington state too. The company was created to help West African communities self-sustain by through fair-trade of their indigenous resources. I also love that the company provides pre- and post- natal care for women in West Africa, offers bicycles and school supplies to improve access to education and actively works against climate change by planting trees and building biogas units. You can read more about their work here!

Now onto the products!

African Black Soap -  My favorite of them all.  I absolutely love the tangerine citrus scent! The soap is moderately sudsy and cleansing. I used it on my face and to shower and I didn't break out at all. It's a multi-use soap, so you can use it as a shampoo or shaving cream too. I also love the pump. Very convenient and hygienic.

Multipurpose Skin Cream - Over the last year I've finally started moisturizing regularly. I've gotten rid of my reptilian skin patches. I switch out from lotions and light creams to heavier, oil based formulas for fall and winter. This skin cream is a mix of three oils - coconut, sesame and baobab. The cream is fragrance free, so you only get the scent of the oil. I would have loved a little fragrance, maybe the lavender just because I tend to apply body creams before sleep and it's a very relaxing exercise.
Though the cream has an oil base, it gets absorbed very quickly and doesn't leave any residue. I've also used the cream after shaving and on my elbows because they were looking a bit rough. I wouldn't recommend using this cream on the face if you have oily skin but as a body cream, it works great!

Bubble Bath - Mmm.. such a pleasant, calming lavender scent. As the weather cools down, a warm bath is a great way to help relieve stress and relax. This is a great product for that purpose. I also love that it's a nice generous size bottle too!

Lip Balms - I have the pure coconut and the coconut mint flavor and I've been alternating them over the last week. Both of them leave my lips feeling soft and flake free in the morning. I didn't see any white film or cast, so that is a definite plus!

If you don't have a whole foods or PCC or a natural store near you, don't worry. Alaffia is also sold in several online stores. Check out the green department of drugstore. com , Vitacoast and Amazon. I love that their ingredient list is so short and free of chemicals. The products all contain fair trade and natural shea butter which is a lovely product if you are looking for deep moisturizing. The products are a great way to enjoy natural skin care without breaking the bank. Most of the products are under $10 and come in generous bottle sizes, so they are definitely comparable to drugstore brands. If you are looking to add more natural products to your skin care regime (and why not!) definitely consider Alaffia. I'm definitely re-purchasing once my products run out and what a great added bonus that my money is going to help women in west Africa!

FTC disclaimer  - I was not compensated for this post. I was sent products for review and this post reflects my honest opinion. 

Aug 22, 2014

Sweet Strawberry Bread

I was looking to use up a pint of strawberries and my old strawberry cake came to mind. I decided to put a twist on it and make a loaf out of it! I had it as an evening snack with some low fat whipped cream. I bet a couple of slices would make a great breakfast!

Sweet Strawberry Bread (Adapted from AllRecipes)


Strawberries - quartered - 1 cup

All purpose flour - 1 cup
Whole wheat flour - 3/4 cup
Brown sugar - 3/4 cup
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Cinnamon powder - a pinch
Walnuts - 1/4 cup chopped (optional)

Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Eggs - 2 beaten
Olive oil - 1/2 cup

Method -

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a clean bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

2. Mix together the wet ingredients and add them to the dry ingredients.

3. Mix with a spoon till well mixed.  The "batter" looks crumbly and greasy and not at all fun looking, lol.

4. Bake in a 9 x 5 or an 8 x 4 a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. Check if done at around the 30 minute mark to avoid burning!

How simple is that!! Definitely try this recipe while the market's flooded with berries. I bet the recipe would work great with blueberries and raspberries too. I just love one pot, fruit based desserts like these. So easy and simple enough to whip up in an hour or less!

Aug 17, 2014

Whole Wheat Bread (No mixer required)

I've been baking a ton these days to pass the time, mostly cookies and bread. Today I made this whole wheat bread that was just so perfect that I needed to share the recipe. Don't be intimidated, it really is super easy and does not require a stand mixer!

I adapted the recipe to make just one nice fat loaf and not three loaves, because let's face it, two people and three loaves just doesn't work out well. I also added and deleted some ingredients and I'm very happy with the result!

Whole Wheat Bread (Adapted from AllRecipes)

Ingredients -

Water -  1.5 cups.
Yeast - 1 packet/ 0.25 oz
Sugar - 4 tbsp

Bread flour - 2.5 cups
Whole Wheat flour - 1.5 cups
Ground flax - 2 tbsp
Salt - a pinch
Olive oil - 3 tbsp

Method -

1. Microwave the water for about 30 seconds to get it warm but not hot. The yeast need to be alive and kicking in there.

2. Add the sugar and the yeast, stir and let it stand till bubbly and frothy. About 15 minutes.

3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.

4. When the yeast is ready, pour the sugar-yeast mixture and olive oil into the dry mix and mix the dough.

5. Once the dough comes together, knead in the bowl to make it smooth and moist.

6. Preheat the oven to about 250F and place the bowl in the oven covered by a wet dishtowel.

7. About 45 minutes to an hour later, the dough should have risen to double the size. Punch it down and knead a little bit more in the bowl.

8. Grease a 9 x 5 pan and shape the load into a rough bread shape and place in the pan. Cover with a towel and allow it to proof a little bit more. About half an hour.

9. Once the bread is nice and risen, bake in a preheated oven at 350F for 25 minutes.

10. Once baked golden, brush on a little bit of butter on the top to keep the crust soft. Allow to cook, slice and serve warm!!

The bread is very moist inside and soft and chewy. I don't like hard, dry breads, so this is perfect. I already had a sandwich and the bread was delicious. I'd definitely like to try making grilled cheese and french toast with it.

I really enjoy baking bread. I don't think I'll be doing it every single week but once in a while, it's a treat to eat homemade bread. I hope you'll try out this recipe too!!

Aug 14, 2014

Birthday OOTD and Makeup!

I had the best day ever and a huge thank you to my friends and family for making my birthday so special! I'm super excited about my outfit and makeup, so let's jump right in.

First, the dress. Everyone who reads this blog knows how much I adore structured dresses and Roland Mouret. So it's no wonder that I was counting down the days for the RM x BR collection to go on sale. I ordered a few dresses during the pre-sale and decided to keep this one. The shoulder straps really hang loose and I need to get them taken in but other than that, this dress is killer.

The dress fits amazing and is so flattering! While the dress is fitted, it's not skin-tight so I'm sure it will work great in a formal setting! I got cold, so I ended up wearing a denim jacket over the actual dress and it looked great as a casual outfit too. For fun, I also tried on a couple of tops over the dress and it looks like a high waisted pencil skirt under the top. I'm really happy that the dress is so versatile and so well made. Definitely buy it if you are looking for a classic fitted LBD. I got it in a size 8.

Dress - Roland Mouret for Banana Republic
Bag - Rebecca Minkoff Quilted Affair in Studded Scarlet
Shoes - Payless (so comfortable)
Necklace - Groopdealz (similar)
I paired the dress with my snazzy Rebecca Minkoff red bag. Since I had the bright red bag and a beautiful statement necklace up top, I decided to wear simple black pumps to complete the outfit.

A closer look at the necklace!

For makeup, I kept things soft and simple. I played up my eyes with a mini cat-eye and a shimmery pink eyeshadow. The whole look is very wearable for everyday. I have no patience for eyeshadow and I reserve it for special occasions but I wear the rest every time I wear makeup! I skipped the matchy red lip and opted for a matte pink lip to compliment the eye makeup. Here is a list of the beauty products I used!

Eyeliner - Kat Von D  tattoo liner (Best.Eyeliner.Ever. Does not smudge or budge!!)

Check out my instagram to catch a glimpse of my TARDIS cookie jar. I'm a major Doctor Who fan, so hubby got the perfect gift for me! I hope you enjoyed this outfit. I'll be back with more!!

Aug 10, 2014

Summery White OOTD and Rebecca Minkoff Bag.

I can't believe I've waited this long to write about my new bag. I had the major GRE in the middle, so I kind of waited to post about it. Now that the exam is over (and I rocked it ;) , here is my beauty in all it's glory.

I've been eyeing this bag for many many months. The bag retails for for $345, so it's always been a dream. A few months ago, while I stumbled upon a couple of colors for around $250. I decided to dig further and I landed on the Barney's Warehouse website where the bag had an additional 40% discount!!!!! You would think I'd pounce on it but no. I decided to sleep on it. Guess what happened next? I woke up at 3AM worrying that maybe the bag sold out, lol. So I woke my sleeping hubby up and informed him that I was getting this bag. It was on final sale and no returns, so I was super nervous about spending $160 on a never seen bag. There were two colors available - a bright red and a cobalt blue. I've been wanting a casual bright bag, so I went with the red.

After all the drama, I finally got the bag and it couldn't be more perfect. Though there is a mini version of this bag, this in itself is quite compact. I love that it can be worn as a shoulder bag or adjusted to be a crossbody.  It has a Chanel look to it and the studs are quite mild and not big or tacky. Love, love, love!

Today I decided to pair with another recent buy, a Gap dress that I scored for $25 and my trusty Land's End sandals. It was such a light, airy outfit and so much fun. I tried on the pretty yellow version of this dress in store but it was sold out in my size in the store and on the website :( So I went with the white version. 

Gap Dress (similar in sleeveless)
Lands End Sandals
Rebecca Minkoff bag
Lips - Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry

The 40% offer on my bag has ended and is available now for 24% at $259. But there is a white with rose gold hardware on sale for $158, a coral studded one for $197! If I find any other offer, I'll try to update here. Next week, I'll write about the Roland Mouret x Banana Republic dress that I got!! Oh yeah, I got it :D

Aug 3, 2014

Masala Stuffed Peppers

Just because you want a fancy dinner, doesn't need mean you need to put in a ton of effort. This is one of those recipes that you can easily whip up with what you have in the fridge. The steps are very simple and you can just throw the peppers in the oven and relax. I got the recipe from a friend and I modified it with things I had on hand.

Ingredients  - 

Bell peppers - 3-4

For the tofu scramble - 

Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Onion  - 1 - sliced
Garlic - about 3 cloves, smashed
Tomatoes - 3, ripe, diced
Tofu - 1 package, firm - 16 oz
Cumin powder - 2 teaspoon
Turmeric - 1 teaspoon
Garam masala - 1 tablespoon
Cayenne powder - 1 teaspoon

Uncooked brown rice - 1 cup

Method - 

1. Cook the rice in 3 cups of water till soft and fluffy - my brown basmati takes 15-20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. In a pan, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic. 

3.  Once done, add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. 

4. Crumble the tofu and add the spices and salt.

5. Once the tofu is cooked and browned, switch off the stove.

6. Slice peppers into two and de-seed them. Layer some rice and then layer the tofu on top of that. 

7. Bake the peppers for 20-35 minutes. If you want to add cheese, take them out 5 minutes early, add cheese and return to oven and bake till the cheese is melted.

I know there are a couple of extra steps in there but the rice and the tofu can cook at the same time. After that all you gotta do is bake the peppers! So easy to make it vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free. Hope you enjoy the recipe!!